"Good luck to you, Mr. Blackburn. Don't make me regret it."
That's what Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway said to convicted burglar Joseph Blackburn at the end of Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
"I did write down a prison sentence for you; this is a true second chance," Conway told him.
However, the judge said Blackburn and his attorney, Huron County Public Defender David Longo, convinced him not to impose a prison sentence since Blackburn had done a "significant amount of rehabilitation."
Blackburn, 28, of 3076 Hanville Corners Road, Monroeville, was eligible for a prison term due to having prior felony convictions. His criminal record includes multiple misdemeanors, felonies and probation violations.
"He's been to prison before," said Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper, who recommended another prison term during Wednesday's proceedings.
Blackburn was sentenced to 180 days in the Huron County Jail on the work-release program. He will serve 120 of those days after he completes a separate, 44-day term for a probation violation through Norwalk Municipal Court. The remaining 60 days can be imposed at the discretion of Blackburn's felony probation officer, who also has the option of asking Conway to waive the sentence if Blackburn does well during his three years of intensive probation.
Also, Blackburn must pay $250 in restitution to the male burglary victim and was fined $250. He isn't allowed to have any contact with the victim or be on his property.
On June 17, Blackburn pleaded guilty to burglary. The Willard Police Department investigated the Sept. 7 incident when the victim returned home to discover a break-in.
"The victim in this case was frightened. He wasn't home at the time and was only out for lunch," Kasper said.
Blackburn's co-defendant, Willard resident Rebecca A. Hale, 24, is on the lam. On June 10, she pleaded guilty to burglary, but didn't stay for her July 23 sentencing hearing.
"She was in the courtroom. She spoke to her attorney, but left," Kasper said.
Conway has issued a warrant for Hale's arrest.
On Sept. 7, the defendants stole a 32-inch, flat-screen television from the victim's Willard apartment. Prosecutors said the pair went to Sandusky, sold the TV and traded it for drugs.
"Ms. Hale had the inside information. She had been inside the (victim's) home before," Longo said.
The public defender said although Blackburn entered the apartment with Hale, he was less culpable despite doing "the grunt work."
Conway asked the defendant if he knew the victim. Blackburn said he'd never met the man.
"(Hale) was an acquaintance through money for sex," the defendant told the judge.
Longo said Blackburn should get credit for his genuine, "Herculean efforts in climbing his way back up" after hitting rock bottom due to a heroin addiction. Blackburn has been attending AA and NA meetings in jail and has been involved in a church group. For the last two weeks of his latest jail term, he has been on the work release program.
"I'm receiving treatment now," he said, referring to the Life Steps, an intensive, out-patient program in Mansfield.
If Blackburn violates the terms of his probation, he faces 18 months in prison.